TELETEXT, November 12, 1997 ( p. 483)



After 20 years in the music business, Mancunian proto-punksters The Fall have just notched up 30 albums with the release of their new work Levitate. So isn't famously grumpy frontman Mark E Smith a bit bored of the band by now?

"Not at all," he replies, speaking from his Salford home. "I just get a bit narky every so often. It's hard work.

"I never want to be mainstream -- though the money would be nice for a while."

"I'm very pleased with the new album," says Fall vocalist Mark E Smith. "The songs are more up. It's something I've been trying to achieve for two years. It's a clearer, harder sound."

The first track dabbles in drum'n'bass rhythms, so does this mean the original lo-fi band have gone all techno on us?

"I'm very down on guitars right now," Mark explains. "A lot of British bands irritate me. Guitars have endless possibilities, but they're never used.

"I've got a lot of Italian and German dance records in my collection," says Mark E Smith of The Fall, whose new LP adds jungle to its scabrous sound.

"I used to go clubbing in Edinburgh two years ago, but it's a bit passe now, isn't it? I'm a hermit nowadays.

"I didn't go to the heavy, bangin' dance or house clubs. It was more weird clubs, like rockabilly, experimental sounds and the slow, heavy stuff. They call it Industrial I think."

Fall frontman Mark has a reputation for being a curmudgeon, often running into spats with reporters. "I'm used to it," he responds. "Snarling Mark and so on.

"A lot of journalists wind me up, but a lot of them are illiterate or incapable anyway. Most of them say more about themselves than me by what they write.

So would Mark consider writing himself? "I've been thinking about that lately," he ponders. "About half of my lyrics actually begin life on a prose basis."

Mark E Smith has been through myriad musicians in 20 years of The Fall, and even sacked his latest band on Saturday

"I like my groups," he insists. "But I'm not a great fan of musicians. I tend to find them too staid and normal.

"My lads never audition. They're mostly mates. Even ex-member Mark Riley (aka Mark Radcliffe sidekick Lard). "When he went 10 years ago I told him he'd be better on kids' TV," laughs Mark. "And I saw him on Live & Kicking last week!"

The Fall made an impression in the '80s with Curious Orange, a collaboration with avant-garde dancer Michael Clarke.

"It was brilliant," remembers Mark. "I liked the discipline of being totally in sync with the ballet dancers.

"I've just got in touch with Michael Clarke again - he's been living with his mother in Aberdeen for a few years, and there's talk of doing another show. He appeared live with us recently. He played a lion-tamer-type character."

Mark E Smith has worked with many artists, from Inspiral Carpets to Coldcut - and now it's Elastica's turn.

"I've done the vocal for three songs," he says. "Well, two-and-a-half really!"

"Our press office is over the road from Elastica's studio, and Dave Bush, who was once in The Fall, is now with them.

"We met them all in the pub, and it all happened from there. The songs I heard are quite Fall-ish. I liked them."

Totally Wired is a famed Fall song, so we couldn't resist asking if singer Mark is into cyberculture!

"We've got a web site, but when people try to explain how it works I go blank.

"There are a lot of voyeurs on the thing. What do people use it for?

"Take e-mail: it takes so long to send one it's like etching a gravestone. It takes an hour! You can write a letter in a tenth of the time. I don't get it"

The Fall are currently touring the UK